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People Helping People in Fort McMurray

Fire seen from the highway in Fort McMurray. (Serghei Cebotari)

Fire seen from the highway in Fort McMurray. (Serghei Cebotari)

Since joining the emergency fire scene division at ASAP Secured back in 2009, I’ve seen a significant amount of buildings lost due to fires or other large disasters. The stories I’ve heard from those involved and the damage that occurred was unbelievable. Many of the fires involved three houses or multi-residential locations such as condos or apartments. There were a few occasions when the disaster took out a block or town square, but those were mostly caused by tornadoes. I have never seen a fire cause as much damage as it has in Fort McMurray.

When visiting fire sites, I am always amazed how quickly and effortlessly the community rallies to support those who were affected. People offered space in their homes, went door to door to gather food, supplies and even toys for the children who were involved. Most families didn’t have time to collect any of their belongings and only had seconds to make sure that everyone got out safely. No one ever thinks that a fire will affect them. It is important to talk with your family about a fire plan and to practice it on a regular basis.

When I heard on the news what other communities around Fort McMurray and all across Alberta were doing to help those who were evacuated, it didn’t surprise me at all. It is great to see not only a province but an entire country come together to help those in need. But there is still a lot that needs to be done. Below are some ways that each of us can contribute:

DONATE MONEY

  1. If you want to donate to the Red Cross, you can give any amount through this link: Alberta Fires Appeal. Alternately, you can donate $5 by texting REDCROSS to 30333 or donate $10 by texting FIRES to 45678. Be careful: Some scammers are posing as the Red Cross asking for money on social media. Justin Trudeau announced that the federal government is matching all donations made to the Red Cross for the Fort McMurray Wildfires.
  2. If you want to donate to the Salvation Army, you can give any amount through this link: Alberta Fire Response.
  3. If you want to donate to Save the Children, you can give any amount through this link: Fort McMurray Emergency Wildfire.

OFFER ACCOMMODATION

  1. If you need a place to stay, or are looking to take in some evacuees, check out these Facebook groups: Fort, Fort McMurray evac relocation help group.
  2. Airbnb has waived all service fees for those affected by the fire, and there are already over 140 places listed on the site for free.
  3. Those able to house displaced people can also sign up at ymmfire.ca

HELP PETS

  1. The Calgary Humane Society is taking donations; you can give here: Fundraiser in Support of Fort McMurray.
  2. The Edmonton Humane Society is also taking donations; you can give here: Fort McMurray Wildfire Donation form.
  3. Those looking to house people’s pets, help unify lost pets with owners, and generally assist with animal rescue should check out this Facebook page: Fort McMurray Fire Emergency Animal Assistance

DONATE FOOD AND ITEMS

  1. If you want to donate items such as blankets or clothes, check out this Facebook group: Fort Mac Fire Donations. Make sure you’re only giving things people actually need. People often donate things after a disaster that aren’t needed, and sometimes actually get in the way of vital supplies.
  2. Edmonton Emergency Relief Services is collecting new shoes, towels, socks, underwear, diapers, baby wipes, and toiletries. Drop off items at: Hangar 2: 3631 – 56 Ave East, Edmonton International Airport.
  3. Edmonton’s Food Bank is collecting donations. Food can be dropped off at any major grocery store or fire hall.

VOLUNTEER

  1. The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo is inviting volunteers to sign up here.
  2. Edmonton Emergency Relief Services is looking for volunteers (must be 16 or older) at a number of locations throughout Edmonton. Volunteers are particularly needed at the airport, as that location is running 24-7. Follow their Facebook page: Edmonton Emergency Relief Services Society, for the latest updates.
  3. Those interested in volunteering with the Red Cross can sign up here.

*Source: Macleans “Want to Help Fort McMurray? Here’s How.”Zane Schwartz http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/want-to-help-those-fleeing-fort-mcmurray-heres-how/

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Fort McMurray Wildfire – Testimonial to a Well Executed Emergency Response Plan

fortNo one ever wants to have to deploy an emergency response plan. The reality is when disaster strikes, every second counts. The Alberta Provincial Government has had to put their emergency service and business continuity plan into action, having to deal with the Fort McMurray wildfires. The quick deployment provided a safe and orderly evacuation. It is evident that the Alberta government was prepared; “Based on lessons learned that we have learned from Slave Lake and from High River, we have teams with an immense amount of experience in doing this,” says Scott Long of Alberta Emergency Management. The Alberta government had preset defined plans, agreements, as well as memorandums of understandings that allowed the execution of the emergency response to act immediately with a focus on three key elements:

Phase 1. Safety of People

Phase 2. Stabling and Preserving Infrastructure

Phase 3. Re-entry of Residents and Businesses

Some evacuees are questioning whether local and provincial authorities could have done a better job of coordinating evacuation efforts. Fort McMurray residents said they were only given seconds to leave their homes. Others described panicked police officers and emergency service personnel who sometimes didn’t seem to be steering evacuees in the right direction, away from the fire. Even with a complete and well-defined emergency response plan, when the disaster strikes – every second counts to get perspective on what needs to be done in order to put the plan into play.

The Alberta government has had support as a result of their many agreements and memorandum of understanding. Many companies are working to ensure preventative and proactive measures are immediately launched and deployed including; transportation companies, oil and gas industry, military, federal and provincial governments, energy and infrastructure, Red Cross, first responders and emergency support groups as well as real-time voluntary support.

While the government is dealing with the Fort McMurray’s current landscape, they are also assisting residents with resource centres, insurance and financial assistance, and healthcare services. Edmonton and Calgary have also provided support and offered education assistance for displaced students.

The Fort McMurray Wildfire is a heroic testimonial to the success of an emergency response plan. The 911 response and action, managed to evacuate residents and save the city core infrastructure.

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Pilferage

80% of any theft is opportunistic. Depending on the work environment, putting security measures in place can prevent a good percentage of opportunistic theft. It is human nature for many who see items lying around to pick them up for themselves.

Loss prevention, cargo theft, and counterfeit are all very common buzzwords and industry concerns. One term that is not frequently talked about is pilferage. Pilferage is the theft of part of the contents of a package. This contributes to inventory shrinkage, cargo theft and the world of counterfeit. It is a theft that is estimated at over $15 billion dollars in loss.Photo

Yes, in many markets it is typically perceived that the cost of a security program doesn’t justify mitigating the risk of pilferage. We at ASAP have successfully shown our clients ways this can be accomplished in a cost effective manner.

“Solutions involve all phases of product production, packaging, distribution, logistics, sale, and use. No single solution is considered as ‘pilfer proof’. Often, packaging engineers, logistics engineers, and security professionals have addressed multiple levels of security to reduce the risk of pilfering”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Package_pilferage

Each situation is unique, but a good place to start is to have a security audit done. Security audits can not only educate employees and improve pilfer resistance but also help investigate feasible methods and who the potential pilferer might be.

Pilferage is a worldwide concern and companies realize that it needs to be addressed. A security program should complement the risk and its cost justification.

It is not easy gathering examples of pilferage as they are client specific and confidential in nature. However, it is a security risk that impacts inventory for many companies and an area that should not be overlooked.

Click here to learn more about theft and pilferage.

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Bat Flip of Emotion

bat flipThe bat flip was heard around the world, or at least that is what the baseball community claimed. It has stirred up many interesting conversations; both at work and at home. A lot of people, including current and ex-baseball players have had different opinions about what might be the most infamous bat flip in MLB history. During the 2015 American League Division Series between the Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers, Blue Jays’ right fielder José Bautista hit a 3-run home run, giving the Blue Jays a 6-3 lead, sealing their victory. The city of Toronto went into a frenzy. But not everyone was impressed by the bat flip.

Besides the Texas Rangers, the loudest antagonist against José Bautista’s bat flip has been former New York Yankee and Hall of Famer, Goose Gossage. In a 10-minute interview with an ESPN reporter, the former relief pitcher called Bautista “a disgrace to the game” among other things. Others have since chimed in, and it has turned into a bigger disagreement of how baseball should be played.

This has made me think about how some disagreements in a workplace can quickly get out of hand and turn into something more than it should be. Below is a brief overview of some key actions one can do to prevent or handle disagreements at work.

  • Make sure there is a disagreementwork conflict
  • Separate yourself from your position
  • Maintain professionalism
  • Listen to the other person
  • Watch what you say
  • Use a lower voice
  • Try to see the other person’s point of view
  • Sometimes you need to agree to disagree
  • When the disagreement is resolved, put it behind you

It is always a good idea to choose the high road and act in a professional manner when dealing with any dispute, whether it is at work or home. Hopefully, the next time you are in this situation, some of the tips above will help you come to a quick and calm solution.

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Last Line of Defence

As a frequent flyer with a security background I am always aware of my surroundings. Especially on international flights to destinations with a higher risk level.

1255494.largeThe last time I flew to Amsterdam, I believe that I was sitting close to an air marshal, who was posing as businessperson jetting to Europe. They look no different than the hundreds of other passengers with a newspaper or magazine on their lap, and smartphone in their hand. Except for their semi-automatic handgun tucked discreetly out of sight, their specialized martial arts training for fighting in close quarters, and a readiness to vault out of their seats to take on and take out a suicidal hijacker or bomber at 31,000 feet.

In Canada, air marshals are one of the best secret weapons in the war on terror. Highly trained officers from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police serve as in-flight security officers on Canadian commercial flights around the globe. For all the many visible and growing, layers of airport security – metal detectors, X-ray machines, and uniformed screeners and now high-tech body scanners – they’re the one layer of security you’ll never see. Should there be a breakdown in intelligence, an oversight at the airline check-in counter, or something missed during screening that allowed a terrorist slip through, they are the last line of defence.

Formally known as the Canadian Air Carrier Protective Program, Canada’s in-flight security initiative was born in the weeks and months after 9/11. Today, it has evolved into a “world-class program,” says assistant commissioner Pat McDonell, who heads the RCMP’s protective policing unit, including the in-flight officers.

Of course, it is not feasible to add these particular agents to all commercial flights, but the fact that they may be on a flight is a deterrent in itself. Because there are not enough air marshals to cover every flight, their assignments are kept secret. No one knows which passenger is the air marshal, or even if an air marshal is present on the flight at all.

All air marshals are continually briefed on the most up-to-date intelligence from around the world. They do not receive classified intelligence reports specifically tailored to their every mission but instead rely upon general briefings from other agencies. It’s an approach to protect Canadians whether they are travelling internationally or domestically. The program is maintained by several countries is an important weapon in the fight against terrorism.

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Trump Protection

On March 12th, CTV news broadcast footage of a rally for Trump supporters near the Dayton International Airport. A Fairborn man with a history of protesting, vaulted over waist-high metal railings, broke through two security staff and nearly got on stage near the end of Saturday’s rally. Thomas Dimassimo, 22, was arrested for disorderly conduct and inducing panic, according to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.

Nowadays, it is common for protesters to show up and provide different opposing views. In this case, a protester jumped a fence and rushed towards the podium where Trump was speaking. Within 30 seconds, 4 protection agents surrounded Trump to shield him off, while other agents grabbed the protester. This was a well-trained group of federal agents with a clear tactical mandate. Luckily there were no serious consequences, but it showed the importance of being prepared for any type of disruption.

On a completely different scale, last Friday I received a call from an old business friend who required security at their facility within 3 hours. That morning his management team had decided to terminate someone and based on earlier comments by the subject, they thought it would be wise to reach out for protection.

The demand for protection services is on the rise in the US, Canada and most other parts of the world. Local events such as violence by employees who are being terminated or reporters being harassed cause businesses to want protection by specialized security companies or law enforcement. There are many events where the risk of disruption is medium to high and organizers need to make sure that their human assets are being protected. This includes the company representatives as well as the audience. The size of the protection detail varies based on the event, the venue and the risk involved. The preparation is important as the tactics are being formulated, making it possible to ward off threats when they occur. A security specialist speaks with a client ahead of time to get the details of what is required and it is usually followed up by a site visit. From that point, a draft plan will be composed. This is often augmented with intelligence gathered through social media and open source investigations. This preparation phase centers on understanding the assets, threats, vulnerabilities and the resources and limitations. The protection can be both overt and covert and range in size for one agent to hundreds for large events.

Regardless of political opinion, all contenders should be having the right level of protection to prevent serious consequences from happening.

Posted in: Protective Services and Investigations

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Counterfeiting is a Big Business and Was Estimated to Hit Over $1.7 Trillion Dollars Globally in 2015

counterfeit-goodsOne of the commenters on my recent blog about cargo theft suggested that I address the global concern of counterfeit products. Everyone knows that making fake products and then selling them to consumers is illegal. However, I wonder how many people realize just how big the problem is if they willingly or unwillingly purchase goods and how much incentive they give to counterfeiters worldwide. Who and what is the money supporting when purchasing these illegal products? The reality is, if consumers buy it – it will never go away. It is important to point out that there are “two types of counterfeit product purchases by consumers”, according to Dr. Haider Ali’s article titled, Why People Buy Counterfeit Brands. Deceptive counterfeiting takes place where the consumer does not know that they have purchased a counterfeit product. It is surprising how authentic some counterfeit products look. In contrast, “non-deceptive purchases of counterfeit products take place where the consumer willingly buys the counterfeit products.” First and foremost, with respect to ‘deceptive’ counterfeiting, consumers should do some due diligence and check the authentic websites to determine who in fact is an authorized reseller. It can be difficult to tell the difference and it is surprising how even some stores themselves look authentic.

On the other hand, ‘non-deceptive purchases’ of counterfeit is where the suppliers may need to “consider why the demand exists”. This is where items are sold in the backs of cars, alleyways, flea markets and basically anywhere counterfeit is bought and sold – the black market. Although there has been a significant amount of research into why and who would buy counterfeit brands. There are surprisingly many reasons on the attractiveness of buying counterfeit.

According to a 2014 report released by the US Department of Homeland Security, “US Customs seized more than 1.2 billion US dollars worth…where more than 60 percent of the goods were from China”. This includes not only clothing, shoes and luxury items but also auto parts and medical supplies.

Luxury retailers do invest a lot of time to crack down counterfeiters. For example, CTV news released a story of a 45-year-old Chinese woman that was being sued for counterfeiting by eight luxury brands.

  • Legal troubles began in 2008 when Chanel sued her for $6.9 million in damages for selling counterfeits online. She still hasn’t paid the damages, according to Chanel spokeswoman Kathrin Schurrer.
  • In 2009, a Florida judge ruled against Xu Ting and shut down seven websites she was accused of helping run that sold fake Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, and Celine. She did not show up in court.
  • In 2010, Gucci, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta and Yves Saint Laurent — all brands belonging to France’s Kering group — filed a lawsuit in New York federal court against Xu Ting, her future husband, younger brother, and mother along with six others who the companies said sold more than $2 million worth of fake handbags and wallets online to U.S. customers.

Mark Cohen, former intellectual property attache at the U.S. embassy in Beijing explains, “At the end of the day, there may be an economic calculation about how much money it’s worth to pursue these people” for any business. These counterfeiters do not and will not stop if consumers purchase. We as consumers need to also understand who we are supporting when purchasing counterfeit. Designers brands and businesses have worked very hard to give consumers an opportunity to purchase beautiful and creative pieces with a level of quality that is second to none.

Posted in: Protective Services and Investigations

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Electronic Advice For Your Device

PhoneAs I prepare my packing list for an upcoming vacation (one that I’ve actually been counting the days down until it arrives), I realize that the first few items I wrote down were my phone, tablet and other electronic devices. That sparked a rollercoaster of questions in my head. What would I do without my phone and other devices? How would I keep up with current events? How would I maintain contact with family and friends (and maybe work)? What did people do before they had electronic devices? Then a more interesting question popped into my head; how safe are my devices both at home and abroad?

There are two categories of safety concerns involving electronic devices. The first category is the loss or theft of the device and the second category is cyber security. If your device goes missing or is hacked, all the valuable information on it could fall into the hands of the wrong person. Both of these categories can result in your identity being stolen and/or monetary losses, plus there is an added inconvenience of replacing your device and dealing with the issues that were caused by the loss.

I decided to do some research on ways to prevent issues from occurring in either category, and pass on the tips I have learned.

Category #1 – For the loss or theft of your device:

Do:

  • Treat electronic devices like cash
  • Put secure passcodes on any device that will allow it
  • Carry the device in something less conspicuous

Don’t:

  • Leave electronic devices unattended, even just for a moment – do not assume they will be safe in your hotel room or in a hotel safe
  • Leave them in a car
  • Use your device too much in public
  • Keep passwords on the devices

 

Category #2 – Cyber security:

Do:

  • Remove personal or important information from your electronic devices that you will not require when traveling
  • Turn off devices or put them in ‘sleep’ or ‘airplane’ mode when they are not being used
  • Put passcodes on any device that will allow it
  • Change any and all passwords you may have used abroad

Don’t:

  • Use public Internet connections for personal or sensitive communication
  • Leave electronic devices unattended, even just for a moment
  • Lend your devices to anyone you do not know very well
  • Send sensitive messages or information via email or text

Now I can finish writing the rest of my packing list and hopefully the next time you go on a trip (even if it’s just a day trip), you can feel comfortable bringing your electronic devices. Don’t forget to pack your swimsuit; you never know when you might need it.

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Cyber Security

If there is one topic prominent in today’s security world it is ‘cyber security‘. Many articles, webinars and seminars centre around the question of how to best protect information systems from theft or damage to the hardware, software, and to the information on them.

The consequences of insufficient protection have become clear through several stories that have hit the media; large companies losing data resulting in direct financial and reputational damages. The biggest retail hack in U.S. history occured at the end of 2013 and resulted in 40 million stolen credit card numbers. In the days prior to Thanksgiving 2013, someone installed malware in Target’s security and payments system designed to steal every credit card used at the company’s 1,797 U.S. stores. During the busy holiday shopping season, consumers were unaware that the malware was capturing their credit card numbers and storing it on a Target server commandeered by the hackers.

Even more frightening is what may happen in the future as illustrated by several investigative writers.

Ted Koppel’s book – ‘Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath‘ – published in October 2015, highlights a significant risk – a catastrophic shutdown of one or more U.S. power grids. Koppel reveals that a major cyberattack on America’s power grid is not only possible but also likely and the United States is shockingly unprepared.

This concept is not far fetched as proof was recently found that a cyber attack took down a power grid. A destructive malware app known as ‘BlackEnergy’ caused a power outage on the Ukrainian power grid this past December, resulting in a blackout for hundreds of thousands of people. Ukrainian officials have blamed Russia for the cyber attack. A CNN article states that U.S. systems aren’t any more protected than those breached in Ukraine.

Koppel asks us to imagine a blackout that could last months – where millions of Americans over several states are without running water, refrigeration, light, and a dwindling supply of food and medical supplies. A blackout could shutdown banks, challenge the police as they’ve never been before, and lead to widespread looting.

Closer to home and on a smaller scale, similar incidents are happening frequently but seldom make the news. This is because companies don’t want others to know that they did not protect their IT environment, as they should have. A small non-profit company found itself recently involuntarily advertising for Islamic States. Their website had been hacked and articles glorifying the IS ideology had been placed. Another company saw credit card payments from their customers land in a newly created bank account, set up through hackers. This led to considerable damage, primarily from a reputational standpoint.

Several steps can be taken to improve the security of IT systems. It is essential to at least understand and evaluate the risks, look at the options for mitigation and make smart business decisions.

Posted in: Protective Services and Investigations

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Where Did You Buy That?

Quite often we see empty warehouse units that are used for selling mass products over a short period of time. There is usually a huge banner in the front of the warehouse that tells you what sale is going on. They have great sales and I do love good deals, but sometimes these sales can be stolen items. I try to only go to manufacturer supported ware house sales. But the other day, I was taken back when I heard that the warehouse sale I went to was suspected to be full of stolen products. I really thought this sale was endorsed by the manufacturer themselves. The reality is that many honest shoppers have no idea they may be buying stolen items. Stolen products can be sold to buyers in stores, warehouses, and flea markets to name a few. I am definitely not painting every warehouse sale or flea market with the same brush. But I do not want to contribute to the purchase of any part of the supply chain of stolen goods. Getting these great deals and closing your eyes to where they came from is one way to support cargo theft. If these thieves know they can sell these products, then the vicious cycle of organized crime through cargo theft continues. Cargo theft is estimated at $5 billion a year in Canada alone. Unfortunately, these crimes are rarely publicized. The manufacturing and/or distribution channels do not want to publicize their product being stolen to protect their brand reputation and/or minimize insurance costs. The average consumer has no idea that these products are a result of cargo crime.

The stolen products range from electronics, cars, alcohol, food, and various household items. At a recent raid, York Region Police recovered a truckload of stolen candy worth more than $200,000. As a consumer, I would never imagine that buying candy for my kids at a store may have been stolen. We as buyers need to educate ourselves on what is legit and what stores are potentially supporting organized crime. The supply chain from manufacturing, transportation to distribution need to also contribute to preventing theft through due diligence. You can minimize the impact of cargo theft by becoming educated on cargo security, truck-hijacking-robbery-training, vendor recruitment driver validation and point-to-point escorts.

TruckLast November, CTV News W5 gave their viewers a taste to how serious this issue is in Canada. Watch Video Here.

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